Friday, October 24, 2014

Food news for Food Day 2014


A happy Food Day to all of my readers!  To celebrate the day,* I present a linkspam of food news, beginning with Discovery News asking Are Healthy Foods REALLY More Expensive?

Healthy foods: Are they more expensive than foods that are bad for you? Tara takes a look at some recent research that might confirm this theory.
That's a video I should show my class, especially after they've seen 'Food, Inc.'

Now for something a little less serious from Discovery News, The Surprising Benefit Of Reheating Pasta!

There's nothing better than leftover pasta, and now science has a reason to love it even more! Tara reveals some surprising evidence that cold pasta might be good for your diet!
Cool, but I'm not showing this one to my students.

Follow over the jump for food news from the past two months of Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Partial solar eclipse at sunset today


For every lunar eclipse, there is a paired solar eclipse within two weeks.  Sure enough, a fortnight after the last lunar eclipse, there will be a solar eclipse today.  Science at NASA posted the original video ScienceCasts: Sunset Solar Eclipse.
On October 23rd, the Moon will pass in front of the sun, off-center, producing a partial solar eclipse visible in most of the United States.
Last I checked, that version of the video wouldn't embed.  However, its clone at Space.com on YouTube does: Partial Solar Eclipse - How To View It | Video.

Warning: Do not look directly at the Sun. On October 23rd, 2014, most of the North America will be treated to the eclipse. Viewing from the eastern U.S. will be especially beautiful, weather permitting, due to it occurring at the end of the day.
With any luck, I'll be able to see the setting sun from inside my classroom.  I hope my readers have a good view, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

World Series Music--Lorde's 'Royals' vs. They Might be Giants' 'San Francisco'


It's time to make good on that entertainment entry I promised at least four times.  However, tonight I'm not posting about any of the topics I suggested--Gamergate, college bands doing zombie marching band shows, or entertainment leftovers from the past month's Overnight News Digests.  Instead, I'm posting music for the World Series.  Thank Vox for the inspiration: Bay area radio stations realize Lorde’s “Royals” is Kansas City-inspired, freak the hell out.
Two San Francisco radio stations have put the kibosh on Lorde's song "Royals" until the World Series is over. Baseball, apparently, is much more important than Lorde singing about having "never seen a diamond in the flesh."
That's wanky.  It's also a good excuse to play her song here.

Music video by Lorde performing Royals.
How did one of the Kansas City radio stations respond?
"We won't let their anti-Royals spirit ruin this moment," said Tony Lorino, Program Director of 99.7 The Point. "A few angry San Franciscans who don't have a song called ‘Giants' won't rain on our parade."
I don't know of any pop songs with the title "Giants," but the band They Might Be Giants has a song called "San Francisco."

From TMBGs Venue Songs "San Francisco (In Situ)" recorded live at the Fillmore. A tip of the hat to jlassen's photostream on flickr for the fine zombie photos used in this slide show presentation!
Giants fans, you can thank me later.  After all, I'm originally from California, so I'm rooting for your team.

Also, zombies!  I managed to post about a band using a zombie theme after all.

Detroit officially joins the salvage economy


In Dark Age America: The End of the Old Order, Greer wrote about the usefulness of waste in his model of catabolic collapse.*
As I pointed out in a paper published online back in 2005—a PDF is available here—the process that drives the collapse of civilizations has a surprisingly simple basis: the mismatch between the maintenance costs of capital and the resources that are available to meet those costs. Capital here is meant in the broadest sense of the word, and includes everything in which a civilizations invests its wealth: buildings, roads, imperial expansion, urban infrastructure, information resources, trained personnel, or what have you. Capital of every kind has to be maintained, and as a civilization adds to its stock of capital, the costs of maintenance rise steadily, until the burden they place on the civilization’s available resources can’t be supported any longer.

The only way to resolve that conflict is to allow some of the capital to be converted to waste, so that its maintenance costs drop to zero and any useful resources locked up in the capital can be put to other uses.
Detroit has long been neglecting the manufactured capital of its infrastructure because it has unable to maintain it, but I don't recall it actively converting the resources locked up in its neglected and obselete infrastructure--until now.  Take it away, Detroit Free Press: Detroit to make $25M from scrapping its own copper.
Detroit is turning to a source to make money post-bankruptcy: Its own supplies of copper.

The city is privatizing and decommissioning its electricity delivery services, and over the next six years expects to make at least $25 million from the sale of copper in underground and overhead electricity lines, a top financial consultant to the city testified this morning in Detroit's bankruptcy proceedings.
Note the "at least."  The same consultant thought that up to 40 million dollars could be realized from recycling all the copper that the city no longer needs.  No wonder Detroit is thinking about doing this.

Follow over the jump for more on Detroit officially joining the salvage economy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CNN on the San Joaquin, America's most endangered river


Despite my promise at the end of Ebola news from campuses on the campaign trail and Discovery News, my readers will have to continue to "stay tuned for a delayed entertainment entry."  Tonight's entry is instead an exercise in blogging as professional development, a series of videos from CNN that I'm posting to my blog so that I can use them in this week and next.  What's the topic?  A 417-mile trip down the San Joaquin, the 'Apocalypse River.'  John Sutter writes, "I spent three weeks trying to kayak (and walk) down the “most endangered” river in America, California’s San Joaquin; I quickly learned why no one does that."
The San Joaquin is a river that would flip my boat, steal my camera, throw me into trees, take my food, tweak my muscles, acquaint me with heat exhaustion, scare the s--- out of me, trap me in the mud and leave me hiking for three days across a desert.

It even fertilized me in the middle of the night.

And that’s just the me-complaining part.

Far worse, it also deforms birds (or did, in the 1980s), taints taps, steals jobs, causes the ground to sink irreversibly, kills fish, destroys wetlands -- and harbors shady people with semi-automatic weapons.

Still, it’s somehow also a river that supports a valley that grows 40% of the nation’s fruits and some vegetables as well as more than 80% of the world’s almonds. It’s a hugely important river, but one that’s been engineered almost to death.
The rest is a great article that all of my readers should also read, but I'm interested in the videos for my classes, beginning with this one, Opinion: The 'most endangered' river.

The San Joaquin river is on life support. John D. Sutter looks at the extreme measures taken to keep the river flowing.
Follow over the jump for the rest of the videos from CNN about Sutter and what he found out in his voyage/trek down the San Joaquin River.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ebola news from campuses on the campaign trail and Discovery News


I ended Discovery News on high-fructose corn syrup with a half-hearted promise.
That would be after an Ebola update, if I'm up for it.  Stay tuned.  Even I don't know what I'm doing next!
I wasn't up for an Ebola update last week.  Instead of following up on Michigan prepares for Ebola after Dallas patient dies, I posted Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!  It paid off, as that entry got 354 page views in 24 hours.  Today, I don't have the excuse of a holiday to avoid an update, plus I have a fair amount of material.

I begin with Northern Illinois University, which asks Ebola: Should we worry?
NIU professor: Money spent to protect U.S. from Ebola better spent in Africa

So, is there reason for concern in this country? Yes and no, say two NIU biologists and a professor of public health.

"We maybe should worry," says Neil Blackstone, a professor in the NIU Department of Biological Sciences whose field of interest is evolutionary biology.

"We don't yet have a grasp of how it got to West Africa, and the concern is that it's evolving. It's evolving to be a better human parasite than it has been, perhaps less deadly but more transmittable," Blackstone adds. "If it infects 1,000 and kills them all, that's one thing. But if it infects 1 million people and kills 10 percent of them - 100,000 - that's another."

Barrie Bode, chair of the department, similarly urges caution.

“The likelihood that we could see a pandemic here is extremely remote, but vigilance is probably advisable right now. We do have a great deal more resources here and protocols that are in place. We can easily isolate the virus and prevent its spread here,” says Bode, who studies the biology of cancer.

“In these Third World countries, it’s much more difficult because they don’t have the resources,” he adds, “and viruses are notorious for mutating. Because the human-to-human transmission rate has been so high, it gives the virus more opportunity to evolve with each subsequent infection.”

Bode and Blackstone are quick to point out that neither is an expert in infectious disease or Ebola itself. They can offer scientifically literate interpretations of the emerging epidemic, however, and are following the news closely.

Sarah Geiger, assistant professor of public health in the NIU School of Nursing and Health Studies, agrees that the possibility of a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States remains remote.

Geiger traces some of the anxiety to modern advances in outbreak containment. “Public Health Preparedness as a sub-field has grown substantially in terms of workforce as well as funding dollars since the events of Sept. 11,” she says, “so I think as a nation we’re more aware of the value of preparedness, which can unfortunately also lead to unreasonable fear.”

However, “I do think that parts of Africa will ultimately be devastated by the virus,” Geiger says.
As I wrote in the previous update...
Once again, the message from the authorities is "Don't Panic."  One of these days I should post the cover of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in response to these pronouncements.
One of these days has arrived.


Follow over the jump for more Ebola stories.

Discovery News on high-fructose corn syrup


I told my readers to "Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry" at the end of Siding Spring and other Mars news, but that's not going to happen, at least not tonight.  Instead, I'm going to cop out and follow up to Corn questions from 'Food, Inc.' worksheet, which is at least about a movie I show my students, with this video from Discovery News: Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Really That Bad For You?

Everyone knows that high fructose corn syrup is bad for you, but how bad is it? And why is it bad for you? Trace is here to talk about artificial sweeteners.
I might have a proper entertainment entry tomorrow night.  If so, it's about equally likely that I'll tackle Gamergate, post about college bands doing zombie marching band shows, or serve up a bunch of entertainment leftovers from the past month's Overnight News Digests.  That would be after an Ebola update, if I'm up for it.  Stay tuned.  Even I don't know what I'm doing next!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Siding Spring and other Mars news


Today, Comet Siding Spring flies by Mars.  Here are the stories about the event that I included in the past two Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos.

JPL/NASA: Comet Siding Spring: A Close Encounter with Mars

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will make a very close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. Passing at a distance of only 87,000 miles (by comparison that's little more than 1/3 the distance between Earth and our moon), it’ll be a near miss of the Red Planet. Find out how NASA’s Mars orbiters will evade the onslaught of dust particles from the comet.
Space.com via LiveScience: Comet's Mars Flyby Sunday Has Scientists Abuzz
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer
October 17, 2014 11:06am ET
A comet's close shave with Mars this weekend could reveal some key insights about the Red Planet and the solar system's early days, researchers say.

Comet Siding Spring will zoom within 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of Mars at 2:27 p.m. EDT (1827 GMT) on Sunday (Oct. 19). Scientists will observe the flyby using the fleet of spacecraft at Mars, studying the comet and any effects its particles have on the planet's thin atmosphere.

"On Oct. 19, we're going to observe an event that happens maybe once every million years," Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary science division, said in a news conference earlier this month. "This is an absolutely spectacular event."
Follow over the jump for the rest of the Mars news since MAVEN at Mars from the University of Colorado, including a video and story about MAVEN.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Corn questions from 'Food, Inc.' worksheet


I concluded Corn for fuel, a story I tell my students with a program note that my students who read this blog will appreciate.
On the subject of corn, I showed "Food, Inc." to my students this week.  Stay tuned for a post about the questions about corn from my worksheet for that movie.
Follow over the jump for the questions about corn from my worksheet for Food, Inc. as well as answers to them.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Corn for fuel, a story I tell my students

I opened Biofuel crops can be good for the environment and other biofuels research with my opinion of using corn for fuel.
Normally, I'm skeptical about biofuels, but that's primarily because the main biofuel in the U.S. is corn ethanol, which I have characterized for years as an energy independence strategy, not a sustainability strategy.  It doesn't help that pretty much all the increased corn production during the past decade has gone into gas tanks.
Here's an updated version of the graph I show my students that displays how much corn goes to each purpose, including how all the growth in the crop and then some has gone into our gas tanks.


The point I make is even more clear in this graph.


The other point I make about corn ethanol is about its wastefulness.
In one of the first entries on this blog, I described "converting corn into ethanol" as "a big energy loser."
This is the figure from The Oil Drum I show my students to support my statement.


Only in the counties shaded in solid gray did corn ethanol yield more energy than it took to produce it.  In all the rest, it was a net energy loser.

Both of the above are why I think using corn grain for for ethanol fuel is a bad idea and why I am enthused about growing other crops with uses that don't compete for food and feed for biofuels.

On the subject of corn, I showed "Food, Inc." to my students this week.  Stay tuned for a post about the questions about corn from my worksheet for that movie.